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ASUU strike: When market women take to the streets

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By Chioma Gabriel
We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason. All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

When market women took to the streets to protest the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike which has lingered for about four months now, it portrayed a very dangerous signal. Many wondered which of the parties involved in the face-off mobilised the market women, but I tell you, they needed nobody to mobilise them.

After the  protest and the ultimatum they gave for the Federal Government and  lecturers to resolve their issues,one begins  to suspect that if nothing is done, these women will come out again and protest naked! The tone of their warning said it all.

Market women and Men Association of Nigeria protesting over the prolong ASUU strike in Federal Secretariat, Abuja yesterday . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan
Market women and Men Association of Nigeria protesting over the prolong ASUU strike in Federal Secretariat, Abuja yesterday . Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

All over the world, women are known to have stripped  naked when the going gets tough and in Nigeria’s case, the market women whose children constitute  majority of students  in  states and Federal universities have had it and would no longer condone it! Such women need not be mobilised by anybody to protest!Their first outing was just to ‘beg’ but I doubt if their next outing will be the same.

At different points in history, women were known to have shown their misgivings by stripping naked! They have done so in Nigeria in the past. They did it during the Aba Women Riot and afterwards and would do it again!

Ofcourse, Nigerians are not alone in this struggle.

In 2011, activists of Ukraine’s protest group ,Femen,  protested outside the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, Russia,(Friday, Dec. 9, 2011)  against alleged mass fraud in the Russia’s December 4 parliamentary polls and demanded that Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stop his political activities. Putin became premier in 2008, after serving two Kremlin terms.  The post-election protests in Moscow drew thousands and continued for several days in the biggest ever challenge to Putin, reflecting  public frustration with his rule. The protesting women were naked!

The recent  protest against the continued  strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the Federal Ministry of  Education, Abuja, which demanded immediate resolution of the impasse strikes a dangerous chord.

Before this protest, Nigerian women had been involved in other protests, even to the point of going naked to drive home their points! Not long ago, dozens of naked Kokori women  took to the streets to protest the siege on the Ethiope East Local Government Area of Delta State by troops of the Joint Task Force (JTF).

The  100 naked protesters were unhappy that their husbands fled the community due to the military operation launched in the wake of the arrest of notorious criminal, Kelvin Oniarah.

The  naked young and old protesters defied soldiers who were deployed to the community in the wake of  the attack on the palace of the Ovie of Agbon Kingdom, HRM Ogurimerime Ukori 1, by armed youths suspected to be members of the notorious kidnap kingpin’s gang.

In October 2012, in EkitiState, a group of women clad in white  expressed their dissent with their breasts exposed against the re-run governorship election in the State. They walked around Ado-Ekiti protesting election rigging.The elderly women allowed the public to see their two breasts.

In 2004, scores of half-naked elderly women in Akwukwu Igbo, Oshimili local government area of Delta State, protested political developments in the state and  in 2005, some Bayelsa women decided to protest naked in support of their son, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, Bayelsa former governor who was widely reported to have dressed  like a woman in an attempt to escape the British police’s arrest over money laundering.

In 2008, women of Obodogugu-Ogume  community in Ndokwa area of DeltaState protested naked over inter-ethnic crisis . The list is endless.

ASUU strike protests could one day get that serious if the impasse is not resloved!

Since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on this strike, the government has been playing hanky-panky with the issues, not seriously  hearkening to the demands of the union or attempting to see things the ASUU way.Rather, it had adopted diversionary tactics, trying to use threats and intimidation  to  force the lecturers back to the classrooms!

It is very bad  that government has refused to fully honour the 2009 commitment it made with ASUU but the same government had repeatedly increased  the emoluments of  at least 17,000 elected and appointed public officials at both the states and federal levels within the same time frame. However,  ASUU doesn’t seem focused and strategic in waging this struggle. The  misconception that the struggle is  about the N92billion arrears in allowances owed members of the union wouldn’t have been if the union was able to put issues in their proper perspectives. In the same vein, the government’s consistent refusal to release  funds for research and development of the universities is not something to be swept under the carpet.

We all know that public universities need facilities:  buildings, technology tools, laboratories, science and engineering equipments, lecture theatres, libraries, constant electricity supply and the government since the 2009 agreement owes them arrears in funding for research and development. Some of the buildings in public universities are dilapidating!

Is President Jonathan  who was a lecturer and a member of ASUU ignorant of these? Wouldn’t he want to return to the classroom when he is done with the business of governance ? What manner of office would he want to occupy then? Who knows, by then,  he would have completed his own private university and would have no cause to worry!

Obviously, our government is yet to realise the importance of education in national development. We cannot develop without recognising the place of education. If Nigeria must compete effectively  globally, it must give priority to education .

Something must be done about the ASUU strike, otherwise, the problems this country is having today would be a child’s play compared to what would happen tomorrow!

The students have been at home for too long and are getting more corrupt by the day!

Early philosophers  had opined that the child was born good but the society corrupts the child. They might not be concerned with particular techniques of imparting information and concepts, but rather with developing the pupil’s character and moral sense, so that the child  may learn to practice self-mastery and remain virtuous even in the unnatural and imperfect society in which he will have to live.

The philosophers had recommended that the young adult learn a manual skill such as carpentry, which requires creativity and thought, to keep him out of trouble and  supply a fallback means of making a living in the event of a change of fortune.

What would later become the fate of many a student with this continuing ASUU strike is yet unknown. But this is one strike that can ruin many a student.  How many of these protesting mothers have encouraged  their children  to learn manual skills like carpentry, sowing, hairdressing , block-making , etc in the interim while the strike lasts?

A child who was born a tabula rasa  would become something if well nurtured when it comes to aspects of his personality, social , emotional behaviour, and intelligence.

Children, we  must understand  are potentially free and rational beings, and  the realization of these crucial human qualities tends to be thwarted through imposition of the sort of prejudice that perpetuates oppression.

It was upbringing and education that stymied development of children’s humanity.

Society is the cause of corruption and vice . Men are depraved and perverted by society. Depravity is due to the corruption of man’s essence by civilization.
ASUU should comprehend that compassion  for the undeserving in particular and for mankind in general is the greatest of the virtues. Contempt  could lead to hurt feelings.

The Federal Government should also comprehend that the objective of schooling is to develop citizens who would hold forth tomorrow. Students should be called back to school because  they need to explore nature and its requirements in order to learn what they need to know. And when the student has not learnt , it is because the teacher has not taught!

ODUA: The need for stellar qualities

Families, friends and Nigerians all over  are still mourning victims of air mishaps that  befell the nation  and claimed the lives of many prominent Nigerians and now, the Aviation Minister is  in yet another controversy with the recent allegation that she ordered the purchase of  two bulletproof  BMW armoured cars worth $1.6million .

The latest is a  publication of  documents  detailing  how the Aviation Minister, Ms. Oduah  allegedly compelled the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to purchase the armoured cars worth $1.6million or N255m.

According to the reports, two officials of the agency allegedly told an online publication that the NCAA did not have enough funds to upgrade equipment, send staff for critical training, and hire enough qualified staff to curb incidents of air accidents but the Minister  is concerned about  having two exotic  BMW cars from the little money the agency made for its operations .

The documents allegedly obtained by the online publication indicate that the transaction for the purchase of the two BMW vehicles started in June 2013 but delivery and payment for the two vehicles were  fast-tracked between August 13 and 15 2013.

The  documents allegedly revealed  that the payment for the vehicles was made into a  certain bank  account and the two  black BMW Li HSS vehicles had chases numbers WBAHP41050DW68032 and WBAHP41010DW68044 respectively. The  two cars were allegedly delivered  on August 13, 2013.

Now, the truth of the matter is that  Stella Odua does not need any scandal at this point and should come out to refute these allegations as loud as she can! Silence on her part would mean she  is as guilty as charged !

We are all aware of the avoidable air mishaps that  happened  in her tenure as Aviation Minister and are becoming rampant in Nigeria’s airspace and questions are being asked about certain expenditures by the ministry.

Stella Oduah made a good name for developmental projects in airports across the country  when she assumed office as Minister and should not  sacrifice her good works on the altar of perceived insensitivity and vanity! Now, many believe that these projects are  being used to divert huge amounts into private accounts for other uses ! And she is saying nothing!

In this era of  dismissal of Ministers and Special Advisers, Stella Odua should not  put herself in the eyes of the storm or be perceived to be undeserving of the exalted position given to her by President Jonathan. She should project more stellar qualities which was her hallmark at take-off because these allegations, whether true or false would do her more harm than good!

She shouldn’t be  perceived as projecting corrupt tendencies, mismanaging aviation funds or being used by anybody to siphon money from the aviation ministry into another  pocket or  for other  uses. She shouldn’t allow incompetence to be her hallmark judging by the air mishaps. If anything, the  air mishaps that claimed the lives of many should be a source of concern to her at this point, not  the purchase of cars . And it would be a tragedy should she allow the good name she made over the years to be rubbished just like that!

A stitch in time saves nine!

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